3 reasons why Timberwolves won 3-team trade, and why so few get it

Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports /
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Minnesota Timberwolves News NBA Trade Deadline D'Angelo Russell Mike Conley Jr.
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3 reasons why Timberwolves win this trade

Okay, so the mainstream media has been a bit critical of the three-team trade in terms of what the Minnesota Timberwolves were able to get in return. But isn’t that the way it often goes? We distill complex situations into simple terms, and then base opinions on the simplest points. It’s almost as though mainstream media has adopted Twitter’s 140-word limit on comprehending the intricacies of this trade, and that skews the positive reactions to the simplest conditions.

Reason III: Financial flexibility

The Minnesota Timberwolves’ financial flexibility remains intact and may have improved a bit. That is due to the fact that the Timberwolves, like all NBA teams, have limited funds to spend on players. And so, the goal for any NBA roster build is: Acquire three elite players, Pay three elite players, and assemble the most cost-effective roster around those players. For the Minnesota Timberwolves, those three players are Karl-Anthony Towns, Rudy Gobert, and Anthony Edwards.

The Timberwolves were unlikely to meet the salary expectations of PG D’Angelo Russell. But that had more ramifications than just losing the player. In the NBA, teams who hold the player’s rights (transferred only to be traded from the original drafting team) have more financial flexibility. If DLo hit free agency, the Timberwolves would not only lose DLo but the ability to compensate a player at DLo’s level. By trading him, the Timberwolves will have that same financial flexibility with new PG Mike Conley Jr.

Reason II: Optimize this roster

Only the Timberwolves improved their entire roster as a result of this trade. PG Mike Conley has strong ties to Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert thanks to their time together with the Utah Jazz.  But he also played alongside Kyle Anderson as their careers overlapped on the Memphis Grizzlies. Those ties are key to getting the Timberwolves roster back on track.

Let’s be quite honest. As soon as an NBA player is traded, much of what that player used to do and to be will change as well. NBA teams, like all professional sports that involve teams, do not run their schemes the same way. It’s the way a player meshes with the philosophies of the coaching staff and teammates that truly dictates the success or failure of any trade.

But if we focus exclusively on the D’Angelo Russell for Mike Conley Jr. swap, what do we find? We see that the Timberwolves have left points on the court because players have struggled to incorporate Rudy Gobert effectively into the offense. With so many other injuries, Timberwolves head coach Chris Finch threw up his arms in exasperation and declared that for now, Gobert was to focus on rebounds and blocking shots.

Gobert’s offense is back on the menu now, and the Timberwolves should be able to resume building better team fundamentals.

Reason I: Three draft picks

The Timberwolves just recouped three future draft picks, one second-round pick from the LA Lakers and two second-round picks from the Utah Jazz. No, they are not first-round picks. But it’s the type of stake that the Minnesota Timbewolves so desperately need.

Why? Merely check out the now outdated What are the Minnesota Timberwolves future draft picks? article. For a quick summary, Here is how this deal changes the Timberwolves’ draft resources.

  • Year          Draft Picks            New Additions
    2023        NYK 2nd-round    None
    2024        MIN 1st-round     Lesser 2nd-round pick from WAS or MEM
    2025        None                       Utah 2nd round pick
    2026        Min or Utah 1st    Utah 2nd-round pick
    2nd rd lesser of MIA, IND, or SAS
    2027        None
    2028        MIN 1st-round
    MIN 2nd-round
    2029        MIN 2nd-round

The Timberwolves grow the number of draft picks in their safe deposit box from seven to ten. While no individual draft pick may move the needle for the Timbewolves much, the aggregate effect of improving the available number of draft picks by nearly 50 percent is indeed significant for the Timbewolves.

For the Minnesota Timberwolves, the devil is in the details, and the quick-hitting NBA media seldom digs down far enough to even realize what a gold mine of information they are glossing over. However you feel about the trade, keep in mind that the Minnesota Timberwolves faced an even more alarming future by doing nothing. That being said, the best projections for D’Angelo Russell I had read to this point was a player-for-player swap.

The Timberwolves landed two players and three draft picks. The downside for the Utah Jazz is the fact that they may end up for two insignificant players and a 2027 second-round draft pick at the cost of absorbing Russell Westbrook’s oppressive salary and trading away two young promising players in the process. The LA Lakers believe that they have landed three difference-makers. But as much as I respect the combined talents of D’Angelo Russell, Jarred Vanderbilt, and Malik Beasley, I think it’s a very tall order to expect them to turn the Lakers’ season around.

How are you feeling this morning? Stay tuned, because the NBA Trade Deadline is rapidly approaching . . .

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